This week , a landmark event took place in Japan , which, on the one hand, brought all environmentalists to a state close to fainting, and on the other hand, it confirmed that there is no alternative to classical energy. However, first things first.
In Fukui Prefecture, the third unit of the Mihama nuclear power plant has been restarted after nearly ten years of shutdown. The event, it would seem, is completely ordinary, but it is seen so only if you do not know the details.
The fact is that the returned reactor is one of the oldest not only in Japan, but also in the world. The official launch of the third power unit of the Mihama NPP with the American PWR type reactor took place in December 1976, respectively, today this complex technical object of increased danger has crossed the age limit of forty-four years. This is practically a record among operating nuclear power plants, only the Swiss “Betznau” is older, whose similar reactor, manufactured by Westinghouse, has been working tirelessly since 1972.
The story of Mihama is quite interesting. Its first two power units were built and launched in 1970 and 1972, respectively. A remarkable fact: each subsequent object has a greater power than its predecessor. The power of the first reactor was only three hundred and forty megawatts, the second – five hundred, but the third already has a capacity of over eight hundred and twenty megawatts. “Mihama” together with its “colleagues” was built during the so-called atomic boom, which allowed Japan to significantly improve its own power supply and created the prerequisites for a technical breakthrough, thanks to which Japan is rightfully considered one of the most technically and technologically advanced countries to this day. We add that three of the ten most powerful nuclear power plants in the world – “Fukushima”, “Kashiwazaki-Kariva” and “Ohi”
Mihama, like its neighbor in Okhi prefecture, provides electricity to the largest manufacturing cluster in the Osaka area , whose gross domestic product is comparable to that of an entire country, such as Mexico , for example . That is, without the slightest exaggeration, we can say that nuclear energy is one of the most important components not only of technical progress, but also of Japan’s national welfare.
At the same time, Reuters in its publication cites the opinion of Tatsujiro Suzuki, the former deputy chairman of the Atomic Energy Commission under the Cabinet of Ministers, who calls the restart of the power unit almost a catastrophe on a planetary scale. And he has a reason for that.
During the existence of the Mihama, emergency situations and even accidents have repeatedly happened. For example, in 1991, at the second power unit, one of the steam generator pipes burst, which led to the operation of the emergency cooling system of the reactor. As a result of the accident, there was a radiation leak.
In 2004, already in the third power unit, which we are talking about today, because of a breakthrough of the high-pressure line with hot steam, five employees of the station were killed, and six more received serious burns. The Investigation Committee found that the operator Kansai Electric Power only checked the water composition, and the reactor piping itself had not been checked for years. The power unit was shut down and restarted in 2007, but it had only been in operation for four years – before the accident at Fukushima , after which it was taken out of service again.
In addition, Kansai Electric acknowledged the fact of receiving bribes and valuable gifts from the administration of one of the cities where their generation facilities are located. The city authorities in a similar way tried to influence the higher authorities making decisions on the operation of power plants in order to prevent their closure and, as a result, the loss of a source of funding for local budgets and jobs for the population. The fact of bribery surfaced and provoked a loud scandal, but Kansai Electric assured that they conducted a thorough internal investigation and this will not happen again.
And now, in the courtyard, an abnormally hot summer of turbulent 2021. Countries are conducting mass vaccinations of the population and are trying with all their might to overcome the crisis provoked by the pandemic and the protracted lockdown. The production facilities are reaching the pre-crisis level, which leads to an increase in electricity consumption, and this along the chain pulls the demand for energy resources. The complex of these conditions led to the fact that the cost of natural gas in Europe jumped to almost four hundred dollars per thousand cubic meters and, if the heat wave does not recede, there is every reason to think that this is not the limit. But if Germany , the Netherlands and Poland save their industries by purchasing more and more coal, then for island Japan it is rather difficult. Therefore, it is not surprising that high-ranking officials of the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry have visited Fukui Prefecture more than fifty times in the past year alone, studying the possibility of restarting the third power unit of the Mihama station. The budget needs money, the industry needs electricity – and you can get it only by overcoming the “Fukushima syndrome”.
According to official statistics, in 2019 nuclear generation in Japan’s energy balance occupied a modest three percent, but in today’s race of economies every megawatt counts, and therefore our eastern neighbor, poor in natural resources, is doing the only thing possible: returning everything that is possible, including ” oldies “.
What is happening in Japan clearly shows that the modern so-called green agenda is not worth a damn. Countries and governments stubbornly talk about the need to switch to renewable energy sources (RES), but as soon as the slightest problems begin, then all conversations stop, good initiatives are curtailed and everything returns to normal. This is understandable: it is one thing to rant in a well-lit, air-conditioned conference room about the bright future of renewable energy sources, and quite another to explain to representatives of big business why a kilowatt-hour for their enterprises has risen in price several times this season.
The modern world economy is built on a strong hydrocarbon foundation, and it will not be possible to change this in the coming decades. And the point is not even that renewable energy sources are still far behind their “dirty” counterparts in terms of productivity and applicability. Competition with new renewable energy technologies, accidents like Fukushima – all this makes the classical energy sector develop as well. Modern ultra-supercritical boilers for coal-fired power plants have efficiencies in excess of forty-five percent, and new filtration systems can capture almost all harmful emissions. The volumes of liquefaction of natural gas and the geography of its supplies are growing from year to year, and gas and oil itself has long been not only a banal fuel, but also the basis for a whole range of industries, without which our usual comfortable life is impossible.
We can only hope that the Japanese have made all the necessary conclusions and will approach the operation of the old Mihama NPP with all care and responsibility. Nuclear energy is undoubtedly our bright and warm future, and it is very important to defeat the radiophobia provoked by Chernobyl and Fukushima in people , and this can be achieved only by avoiding new accidents.